For entertainment at sea try a music-theme cruise

September 18, 1994|By Orlando Sentinel

There's so much music happening aboard cruise ships these days that it's a wonder there are any musicians left shoreside to serenade landlubbers.

Whether your tastes run to Rachmaninoff or rock and roll, there is probably a music-theme cruise to suit it. Here is a sampling of cruises that not only strike up the bands, but orchestras, quartets and soloists as well:

* On the Norway, the 12th Annual Floating Jazz Festival promises nonstop music during sea days from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., with performances throughout the week in the ship's main lounges and showrooms. Musicians and singers in the lineup include Juanita Brooks and Her New Orleans Band; the Modern Jazz Quartet (with Milt Jackson, John Lewis, Percy Heath and Connie Kay); and the Duke Ellington Orchestra with Mercer Ellington. Continuing a great musical tradition, the current incarnation of this orchestra includes four original members who performed when Duke Ellington was its leader.

The seven-day eastern Caribbean cruise, departing Oct. 22, also includes an array of other performers and music-related events, from autograph-signing parties and a Gershwin piano recital to impromptu all-night jam sessions in the ship's smaller lounges.

Fares start at $1,329 per person and include air travel from more than 150 U.S. and Canadian gateways. For more information on Norway music cruises, call (800) 327-7030.

* Passengers seeking a bit more highbrow music on the high seas always can count on the Mermoz's classical-music cruise. The drawing card for this annual cruise, traditionally scheduled during August in the Mediterranean, is its lectures and the very popular, informal open rehearsals of the full classical music orchestra, whose artists mingle with passengers during the sailing. Concerts are held both on board and off in such dramatic venues as candlelighted ancient Greek amphitheaters. For more information, contact your travel agent.

* Big-band sounds also have been popular, longtime draws for cruise passengers, and many lines schedule these throughout the year.

Among them, Royal Cruise Line is offering two 10-day big-band cruises on its newest ship, the Star Odyssey. Sailing round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, the Nov. 1 and Nov. 11 cruises transit the Panama Canal to Mexico's Yucatan. During its music cruises, Royal traditionally increases the number of unattached men on board so that single women passengers can enjoy dancing as well as listening. Brochure rates start at $2,798 (including air); however, passengers can expect 15 percent discounts, the line says. For more information, call (800) 622-0538.

Other lines planning big-band cruises run the gamut from American Hawaii to the Delta Queen Steamboat Co., which is scheduling big bands on all its January and February Mississippi Queen cruises. It also plans Dixie-fest cruises on the Delta Queen during the same period.

* The QE2 plays host to the first-ever Newport Jazz Festival-at-Sea during a five-day cruise leaving New York tomorrow. After almost 40 years as a fixture on shore, the famed festival takes to the sea with a roster of performers that includes its own classic All-Stars Swing Quintet -- Eddie Jones (bass), Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Mickey Roker (drums), Lew Tabackin (tenor sax) and Warren Vachet (trumpet); the Dave Brubeck Quartet; and Tito Puente and his Latin Jazz Ensemble; and pianist Dave McKenna, among many others.

The QE2 cruise calls at Halifax, Nova Scotia; Bar Harbor, Maine; and Newport, R.I. Fares start at $1,545 per person, and include air from several selected East Coast cities. For more information, call (800) 221-4770.

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